Thursday, November 10, 2011

St. Leo the Great

From Nobility:
Leo’s pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity. At a time when the Church was experiencing the greatest obstacles to her progress in consequence of the hastening disintegration of the Western Empire, while the Orient was profoundly agitated over dogmatic controversies, this great pope, with far-seeing sagacity and powerful hand, guided the destiny of the Roman and Universal Church.

Leo was descended of a noble Tuscan family, but born at Rome. His father’s name was Quintianus. Our earliest certain historical information about Leo reveals him a deacon of the Roman Church under Pope Celestine I (422-32). Even during this period he was known outside of Rome, and had some relations with Gaul, since Cassianus in 430 or 431 wrote at Leo’s suggestion his work “De Incarnatione Domini contra Nestorium” (Migne, P.L., L, 9 sqq.), prefacing it with a letter of dedication to Leo.

During the pontificate of Sixtus III (422-40), Leo was sent to Gaul by Emperor Valentinian III to settle a dispute and bring about a reconciliation between Aëtius, the chief military commander of the province, and the chief magistrate, Albinus. This commission is a proof of the great confidence placed in the clever and able deacon by the Imperial Court. Sixtus III died on 19 August, 440, while Leo was in Gaul, and the latter was chosen his successor. Returning to Rome, Leo was consecrated on 29 September of the same year, and governed the Roman Church for the next twenty-one years.

Whilst the Eastern empire was distracted by heretical factions, the Western was harassed by barbarians. Attila the Hun, enriched with the plunder of many nations and cities, marched against Rome. The Huns, a savage nation from that part of Scythia which now lies in Muscovy, had passed the Palus Mæotis, in 276, and made their first inroads upon the coasts of the Caspian Sea, and as far as Mount Taurus in the East. Almost two hundred years after this, Attila, the most powerful and barbarous of all the kings of that nation, in 433, had marched first into the East, then subject to Theodosius the Younger, and having amassed a vast booty in Asia, returned into Pannonia, where he was already master of a large territory. (Read entire article.)

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